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Opponents Amplify Calls to Reject Indiana's Wetland Deregulation Bill

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One acre of wetland can store more than 1 million gallons of floodwater. (Bob/Flickr)
One acre of wetland can store more than 1 million gallons of floodwater. (Bob/Flickr)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman - Producer, Contact
March 30, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS -- Opponents of a wetland deregulation bill in Indiana are amplifying their pleas to lawmakers to reject the measure.

More than 80 groups signed a letter sent to Gov. Eric Holcomb and state lawmakers yesterday, which offered policy alternatives to provisions in Senate Bill 389 that would eliminate state wetland protections established in 2003.

John Ketzenberger, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in Indiana, noted there is a reason that Indiana is one of just eight states with its own wetland regulations.

"Indiana is fortunate to be in a water-rich environment," Ketzenberger explained. "We have lots of wetlands; these are a sign of our health in terms of the environment. We should protect these things."

Supporters, including housing and land-development groups, argue current regulations are onerous and expensive.

Indiana has just 15% of its historic wetlands left, and Senate Bill 389 would impact 80% of what remains that are not federally protected.

A House committee could vote early next week on the legislation.

Ketzenberger added The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has been open to a dialogue with concerned groups, but also contended negotiations on the bill haven't included factual input from experts who fully understand how wetlands function.

"The agency is trying to hold onto this important regulatory ability under threat and duress of it being repealed," Ketzenberger stated. "And the discussion has just not been fully robust and in a manner that allows for finding a solution to the alleged problem."

Wetlands provide water purification, critical wildlife habitat and flood protection. Nearly 30,000 people also have signed an online petition calling for Indiana's wetlands to be saved.

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